Re: early 1900's art scene
Date: January 27, 2014 01:59AM
I'm a little late to the party here, but I just discovered this forum. I can contribute some info about the 57th St. Art Colony in the early 1900s. My great grandfather William Cowan and his second wife, Elizabeth van Osdel Cowan, had two different storefront shops in the 1500 block of 57th St. between 1910-1930. He was a wood turner and picture framer and she was a portrait painter. Her work was well-regarded enough to have been exhibited at the Art Institute in two of their annual Chicago artist shows.
The 1910 census shows them at 1506 E. 57th St. and on the 1920 and 1930 censuses, they were at 1545 E. 57th St. My dad's family stayed with them for a short time, and I have a sketch of the floor plan drawn by my uncle. The picture framing shop was in the front, there was one bedroom in the middle, and a kitchen and workbench in the back, plus a small loft above reached by a ladder. The "privy" was out back, and there was also a storage shed. At one point, there were eight people living there! My uncle records that the rent was $15 per month in 1924, and $25 in about 1930.
Other writers indicate that the 57th St. complex began its art colony existence as early as 1900. Check out this article from the Chicago Tribune in 1988: